Opinion: Union attack on ed secretary nominee Betsy DeVos partisan and baseless

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’’s choice for education secretary, was confirmed today in a historic vote. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

I shared a strong protest by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten of the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos as U.S. Education Secretary.

Today, I am sharing a protest of that protest.

First, I want to report the congressional hearing on DeVos, scheduled for Wednesday, has been rescheduled to next week. Because of DeVos’ vast wealth and complicated financial holdings, the Office of Government Ethics has not finished its vetting process.

I also want to point you to a good story in The New York Times on how DeVos wields her fortune to advance her education beliefs through the political arena.

The story notes:

It is not unusual for the wealthy — who devote nearly 50 percent of their philanthropic dollars to education, according to the group Wealth-X — to spend aggressively in the political realm to impose their preferred reforms. Even by these standards, however, the DeVoses stand out for the amount of money they spend trying to advance their goals through politics rather than philanthropy, such as research into reforms or subsidizing schools.

Ms. DeVos has led two nonprofits that have spent millions of dollars electing governors and legislators sympathetic to school vouchers around the country. Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for one of the groups, said the efforts had frequently been bipartisan, and that the amount of money they had spent has been dwarfed by contributions from teachers’ unions opposed to reform. Yet in Michigan, at least, the family’s political strategy has not been subtle.

After he defied Ms. DeVos on a key charter school vote, Mr. Pumford, the former Republican legislator, survived an effort by the Great Lakes Education Project, a nonprofit the DeVoses bankrolled, to defeat him in his 2002 primary. But shortly after, the House speaker told him the Education Committee chairmanship he coveted would not be forthcoming. “I said, ‘Why?’” Mr. Pumford recalled. “He said: ‘You know why. The DeVoses will walk away from us.’”

With those updates, here is a defense of DeVos from the Center for Education Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based school choice advocacy group.

The attack on Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos by the president of the American Federation of Teachers was a “partisan rant by the leader of the first national union to endorse the Democratic nominee in the last election, and they lost,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform.

AFT President Randi Weingarten accused DeVos, who has played a major role in the expansion of charter schools in her home state of Michigan and in dozens of other states, of being “anti-public-education.”

“But charter schools are public schools, they’re just not the kinds of public schools that the AFT likes,” Allen said. “For the head of an organization that purports to represent teachers by attempting to create fear among them is outrageous and contradictory. She claims that an agenda that promotes school options is anti-public education. The only thing anti-public education is those who oppose educating the public in any way that best suits the needs of its students.”

“That’s what the teachers unions have become — a proverbial straw man against anything except the status quo. Their language and rhetoric should be rebuffed by every American teacher who cares about their classroom and their kids,” Allen said.

 

Reader Comments 0

80 comments
Misty McClellan Keaton
Misty McClellan Keaton

I have taught in a terrific charter school (in another state). The administration allowed teachers to have an equal voice in decisions even in how we allocated funds. Most schools are not that way. We were limited by our charter and the local school board in the students we accepted. No special education or English Lang. Learners. The districts get more federal funds for these students. My issue with school vouchers (for private schools) is that they will not be required to accept every student who wants admission (no special needs, ELL, behavioral problems). Unless they are mandated to have open enrollment I do not think public funds should be used.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Obama said in his Farewell Speech tonight that if political dialogue is framed only in terms of the white hard-working man versus the undeserving and not hard working black or brown man, then only the ultra-wealthy will benefit and move further into their private enclaves of wealth and power.

This is what the wealthy, powerful elite have always done to the working class white and people of color (Read "White Trash" by Nancy Isenberg). It is time for both groups to wake up to how they have both been used by the wealthy elite by dividing them and conquering both groups to serve them (the wealthy, powerful). We must now, finally, join together to make America greater than ever, in our common future. The tenets of America are the light of the world. The average man and woman of all races will show America the way forward.

Now, we move from class and high intelligence in our Commander-in-Chief to crassness and less intelligence in our 45th President. It is up to us, all of America's citizens, to find common ground, our national creeds for inclusion and freedom, and continue those ideals into this world's future. Barack Obama has pledged to stay the course for the rest of his life as a citizen, one with us. How perfect in symmetry for his life and for what our nation stands.

P.S. Watch his older daughter's, Malia's, development. She is going to be an outstanding woman.

#SoreLosers
#SoreLosers

@MaryElizabethSings 

It's a shame there are still those who, like you, continue to divide us months after election results are in. Your candidate lost. Please finally accept that fact and move on.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

You will note that so called pro reform/voucher/charter folks only seem to want to give total control of all taxpayers' education money to that special elite class made up of only parents with school-aged children. Very weird. 


Also strange is that they never propose giving vouchers to ONLY children that are failing. Why would a child who is passing need to go ta different school?


If you want vouchers, give one to every school aged child in the state. let the state totally fund all schools, have a lottery and students can pick any school in the state based on lottery results. Bet you so called conservatives don't want true and fair choice.

#SoreLosers
#SoreLosers

@AvgGeorgian 

Parents will be only too happy to choose among schools competing to meet their child's needs. Finally.

Nor could taxpayers lament the closing of failing schools unable to rely on their monopoly.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#SoreLosers @AvgGeorgian

See what it is, is that if you reply to a post, you comment on the post. If you want to post random words and feelings, you start your own post. Or maybe your post was a chartery post that is sort of like a post, but not really.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @#SoreLosers "Why would a child who is passing need to go ta different school?"  A good education goes far beyond "passing." Set your sights much higher.

creative
creative

@AvgGeorgian Hey bud, I agree with your last statement at least.  I feel every parent should have the the ability to participate.  I do want complete school choice. 

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Here is the problem with charter schools. You have to have certified teachers, you need to teach the state curriculum, you need students, and you need some government entity funding them. So what is the difference between a charter school and a regular school? The people at the top, most of which have no experience in education, some have run away with money given to them, and some not accountable to anyone but themselves. They wrap nice little school titles and hand select students so they can run some quasi private school under the label of a charter school. It is no solution to the educational problems of this country. What a load of crap.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

How about allowing parents to decide? I wish the charter school my kids attend could be more flexible but it cannot. I wish we would get rid of the Laws about what has to be taught. And the testing. Because it is all making education suck.

Beth Stallings Odom
Beth Stallings Odom

Would you expect parents to be able to decide how to treat an illness their child has or would you refer to a doctor trained for such?

Pelosied
Pelosied

Jeez, historydawg is an attention hound. Can someone maybe teach him to roll over and play dead?

Until, say, June or July?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Pelosied

PelosiEduKtr. Is that you? I still can't find the word union in your last post. Lemme get mu specs.

historydawg
historydawg

Allen purports to speak for teachers, though she neither represents teachers nor has she been a teacher. She has a degree in education business. Her claim to represent teachers and students seems rather disingenuous. Perhaps if she were honest about the success (or lack of success) of current chapters, perhaps if she were honest about how communities schools lose when charters move in, perhaps if she were truthful that the same folks who promote "choice" are the very ones who created the regulation and rules that charters claim to escape. Of course, it is never about the students, only the choices (and thus privileges) of a selective few. Let's champion one of America's greatest exports--the public education, open and equal for all students. 

Starik
Starik

@historydawg Not equal in Georgia. Divided into over 160 systems, varying wildly in quality and character.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@historydawg


Well said.  And, especially well said are your remarks, below, regarding the history of public schools in this nation.


Thank you, historydawg.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @historydawg


That is why Georgia's legislature is considering ways, this session, to redistribute funding of education to various systems throughout the state of Georgia.


Astropig
Astropig

If I have one criticism of Ms. DeVos,it is about using her families' fortune to positive change in education-They didn't use enough.


On a more positive note-A big "Thank You" to Harry Reid for having the wisdom and foresight to assure that all of PEOTUS Trump's nominees will be confirmed.


Owe ya one,Harry! 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

If vouchers are approved, I think that the legislature and counties need to consider waiving senior citizens from having to pay school taxes which will often go to the cost of vouchers for the already wealthy to send their children to private schools on the backs of senior citizens, without children in school themselves, who may not have the financial wherewithal to support those Georgians much wealthier than themselves who insist upon using public taxes to send their children to private and religious schools.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings


Ha ha.You're usually not this funny on purpose.


Trying to get out of paying "your fair share"? 


Good luck with that.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

For readers, especially those who do not yet recognize  how I think:


I am using my personal example, above as a senior citizen, to show this reading audience that there are many other groups of lower to lower middle class yearly incomes who will be unfairly penalized financially by this voucher "choice," proposed by Mrs. DeVos, and others.


Of course, DeVos is so wealthy that she, no doubt, fails to understand that financial unfairness, nor does she understand that her educational vision will end up hurting teachers (who will work for lower wages and fewer benefits including retirement benefits and healthcare) and students, especially those of poorer means in this state and nation, because the schools in which they will be stuck will become more deficient than ever because of low funding.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig

Why would a person with no school aged children want to pay local taxes for a child to attend school in another tax district?


Would you want to pay a GA gas tax for roads in Alabama?

EdGraham
EdGraham

The AFT couldn't care less about students actually getting an education.  They just care about government school teachers paying union dues.  Anything that might interfere with that, no matter how much it would improve education, is a bad thing.

historydawg
historydawg

What she has done has not improved education. She is against what our founders championed for the security of the Republic. Im sure most teachers in Ga who are not in a union would agree that we need a Secretary who has experience and a record of championing the education of all, not a select few so that an even more selective few can make money. Btw States where the AFT is strong have better schools by every GOP-contrived measure.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


"What she has done has not improved education. She is against what our founders championed for the security of the Republic"...


Yes. They thought so strongly about it that they completely left it (education) out of our constitution.When did you start speaking for the founding fathers?

historydawg
historydawg

Clearly you have read state constitutions from the 1780s and 1790s, written by founders, which all made provisions for other peoples' children

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


Then you should know that what are today considered "charter schools" were the norm in the early colonies.Provisions didn't always exist to set up formal school districts,nor did agreement on curricula or even what personnel could be obtained.Groups of colonists would get together, and ,(although the term was not in common usage for schools) "charter" a school for the betterment of their kids education.There was no eduacracy in those days to demand more and more money and control over parents educational decisions.Things seemed to have worked out just fine. 

Astropig
Astropig

@EdGraham


I think that Weingarten's real beef is that she wanted the job in a never-never Clinton administration.Hers is the worst kind of sour grapes.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


Well, you're just going to have to live with her for however long she's in office.

historydawg
historydawg

The first Georgia constitution included it, but as today, some rejected this responsibility, especially educating non white kids. deVos is another scene in this fight for a more perfect union that Jefferson, Mann, Dewey and countless other responsible citizens gave their best efforts.

historydawg
historydawg

It was called the common school from about 1820s onward and involved communities pooling resources to educate their kids. All kids. Not for profit. Not educating some. Not educating to extend privilege or career. For citizenship. For the Republic that deVos seeks to destroy.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@historydawg


Excellent summary of the history of public schools in this nation and how Betsy DeVos' educational ideas are not consistent with that history.  Thank you, historydawg.


wgh1948
wgh1948

@historydawg I believe that many teachers in Georgia would agree that the Department of Education should be abolished.

Tom Green
Tom Green

Besides being highly anti-public education, she has no educational experience what-so-ever. What's not to like?

Tom Green
Tom Green

Shira Newman Have you looked at her record(or lack thereof)?

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

What does being anti public education mean? Wanting the best for the kids? Trying soemthing new? Doing what we have always done will make things worse.

Beth Stallings Odom
Beth Stallings Odom

Anti public education means she wants to turn education over to private industries, backed by ALEC and the Koch Brothers. School vouchers would be given for public school students who want to go to a private school. The funds for these vouchers will be taken away from public school funding. The amount of the voucher will not be enough to pay the entire tuition for a private school so this will only benefit those parents who can afford to pay the balance, and predominate part of the tuition. It will be an advantage for those who already have an advantage and a savings account for them. How many middle and low income parents can afford to do this. As far as school choice, who is going to get the students to and from the school of choice?

Pelosied
Pelosied

Readers, of course, can't help but notice that the rebuttal to the union's attack on the nominee for Education Secretary is only half the length, is prefaced negatively and is labeled "Opinion."

As if the baseless charges of a teachers' union boss were something else?

In a thoroughly partisan Democrat newspaper like the AJC one marvels when anything but the party viewpoint gets through, I suppose. And then again, the viewpoint of the majority is bound to be every bit as foreign to staff writers as ... state election results?

But I wish Secretary DeVos Godspeed, as will parents across the state. Education reform, and real choices, are long overdue.

historydawg
historydawg

We are parents and taxpayers. We believe communities and parents know best how to educate their kids. The plans you doggedly and blindly support do not make that happen. Education for all kids, not for profit.

historydawg
historydawg

Like health care and prisons, choice is a fallacy. And is being used to injure students. I thankful for teachers whose partisanship is for their students alone and sad that such is lost when folks see union and forget American history.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


" I thankful for teachers whose partisanship is for their students alone and sad that such is lost when folks see union and forget American history."


Teacher?

historydawg
historydawg

Yep. In education and the world of logic, this is ad hominem. Seems like you always return here. Sad.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


I believe that parents are smart.They can well choose the education options that best suit their kids.The compounded 6% growth rate in charter school enrollment since 1992 seems to indicate that many,many agree with me.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg


I'm not as easily conned as your average parent.I'm sure you don't like that.

Astropig
Astropig

@historydawg @Astropig


If they're as great as you say,why aren't kids leaving  charter schools and trying to get into zip code schools? 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @historydawg Is that why you will not allow the voters of Georgia to have the final word? I am sure there were a few parents that voted no on last years amendment. 

Starik
Starik

@historydawg Not the same. Demanding real, qualified teachers is for the benefit of students. The AFT is for all teachers, including the worst of the worst.

historydawg
historydawg

Um, absolutely. Although it does not take much research to school you on education, much less history. Your war on teachers and students is unbecoming

historydawg
historydawg

@Astropig @historydawg Logical reasoning is not a con. Personal accusations is not an argument. The average parent would not speak so nastily to teachers on a regular basis. Most communities like their community school and its teachers. Their views on "public education" are not as strongly positive because they have been fed the lies of education corporations et al for so long. But local schools generally get good ratings by folks whose kids attend. Those who want public money for private, status-affirming education usually say otherwise.

historydawg
historydawg

False choice. Not market driven model here. Make all schools free from GOP over regulation, not just charters.